According to Safety Research Net when Heidi King – the deputy administrator at the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) – was questioned about the safety of vehicles equipped with keyless ignition systems, she failed to give any clear answer beyond saying that the agency is encouraging people to be aware of the issue. This is concerning because keyless ignition systems have been responsible for dozens of deaths in the United States. If the NHTSA were to create and enforce a safety standard for keyless ignition vehicles, lives would be saved.
Also called smart keys, keyless ignition systems allow someone to start a vehicle without physically inserting a key into the ignition column. Instead of manually inserting and turning a key, the driver has a fob, which transmits a signal to the vehicle when it is within a certain range.
The two main hazards that are most commonly attributed to keyless ignition systems are:
Regardless of the wealth of information confirming how dangerous and deadly smart key ignition systems are, the NHTSA has still not created a federal safety standard to require that manufacturers make lifesaving product changes. For example, some legislators suggest that the agency require manufacturers to install louder warning systems that will alert drivers if their vehicle is still running since the systems are infamous for being quiet.
Although it is unclear just how many people have died in vehicle rollaway and unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning incidents combined (because no state or federal agency has been tasked with monitoring these cases), the NHTSA has received more than 100 complaints related to these issues. Both rollovers and carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly – though preventable – and are directly linked to smart key ignition systems. Some vehicle manufacturers have taken steps toward protecting consumers by installing louder warnings or other safety features that protect against these known hazards, while others have installed a feature that makes idling vehicles turn off after running for 30 minutes.
A New York Times investigation found that 28 people died and nearly 50 others sustained serious injuries from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning linked to smart key ignition systems. Carbon monoxide can be extremely difficult to identify because it is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas.
Some of the common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
If you suspect you are suffering from carbon monoxide exposure – particularly in a closed or not well-ventilated space – get to fresh air and call 9-1-1 to receive immediate medical attention.
Vehicle rollaways are more likely to occur when a car is not left in the “park” position once the engine has been turned off. Every time a driver exits their keyless ignition vehicle he or she should take a minute to double check that the car is in “park”. Using the parking or emergency brake is also advisable for avoiding rollaway incidents.
Hundreds of current car models come equipped with automatic engine shut off systems and/or other safety features that protect consumers against known hazards like unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning and deadly vehicle rollaways.
The NHTSA has the ability to create and enforce a federal safety standard that could stop these completely avoidable incidents from happening – but one of the first steps is to push local legislators to take a stand for consumer and product safety.
If you have other questions or concerns about an injury or illness related to a defective smart key or keyless ignition system, please contact a representative at our firm who may be able to help.
If you sustained injuries because of a defective or dangerous product, please contact the Philadelphia products liability lawyers at Galfand Berger. With offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.